WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Measles is an “imminent threat” around the world, according to a joint report released Wednesday by the WHO and the U.S. CDC.
- Measles is a highly contagious disease that can be prevented through vaccination.
- Missed vaccinations during the pandemic made millions of children susceptible to the disease.
In a joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the highly contagious but preventable measles is now an imminent global threat. This is due to declining vaccination coverage and weakened surveillance of the disease brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A 95% vaccination rate would have prevented outbreaks among populations.
WHO’s measles lead, Dr. Patrick O’Connor, told Reuters that while there is no dramatic rise in measles cases compared to previous years, it is time to act now.
“We are at a crossroads. It is going to be a very challenging 12-24 months trying to mitigate this.”
O’Connor said that the cyclical nature of the disease and the remaining social distancing measures contributed to the prevention of explosion of cases. But with the disease being highly contagious, things could change quickly.
But since the start of 2022, there have been rising disruptive outbreaks from 19 to almost 30 by September, according to WHO and sub-Saharan Africa is one worrying area, O’Connor added.
And just last week, a measles outbreak of 24 active cases in unvaccinated children was reported by the public health department in Columbus, Ohio.
According to the WHO, manifestations of measles are fever and a rash that spreads from the face and neck after a few days. An infected person can transmit the virus up to four days after the rash appears. No specific antiviral has been developed to treat measles.
The joint report estimates that in 2021, around 128,000 people died of measles worldwide.